After Watching Too Much “House,” Doctors Misbehave

The numbers are in, and it looks like there’s going to be even more coal in the stockings of physicians come Christmas. According to modernhealthcare.com, the Federation of State Medical Boards reports disciplinary action against doctors is up 6% from last year to over 5,700 total cases nationwide. This prompts the question: why this sudden trend?

One possibile explanation is that the medical community’s increased time in the spotlight (partly as a result of health reform) has driven review boards to crack down and self-regulate or risk public scandal. Another is that there are more doctors treating more patients, meaning there hasn’t actually been a change in the trend per doctor. A third alternative (perhaps the most likely) is there has actually been an increase in careless behavior amongst physicians. Perhaps these wayward doctors have become enamored with the well-worn image of the rebel doctor, as portrayed on popular television shows like Fox’s “House M.D.”  Shows like this have always played off the notion of brilliant surgeons sticking it to the man (in this case “the man” = hospital boards and the Hippocratic Oath) and it only makes sense that some physicians in mid-life crisis have sought to emulate this image.

Interestingly enough, the new FSMB numbers don’t indicate an across-the-board increase of these cases, and some actually showed significant drops in punitive action taken against physicians. Is it merely a coincidence that the two states with the most improved disciplinary records – Florida and South Carolina – happen to be places where people can do things other than watch TV, like  going to the beach going outside? Consider that fact on top of the knowledge that the worst infraction rates are in states like Nebraska, where TV is the only thing that keeps most people from hurling themselves underneath a tractor.

It’s just a theory.

-Michael B. Sauter

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